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Read this when it's dark, when you're alone. Maybe your parents have gone out for the night or your spouse is off having a drink with his buddies. Maybe you've just put your babies to bed and you're fairly sure they sleep pretty soundly.

Get as much of the darkness around you as you can. If you must, read this by the light of a nightlight stolen from one of those sleeping babies' rooms, or by the light of a tiny flickering flame from a candle that serves no real purpose usually, one of those generic candles you buy in boxes of 12 in hope you might actually need them all sometime.

Curl up and be warm. Make yourself comfortable. And read, imagine, and enjoy.

Listen closely my friend. Is tonight a silent night? Or do you hear the sound of a ceiling fan, an air conditioner, your brother snoring in the next room? Do you hear the sounds of a city at rest, the faint echo of cars off in the distance? People who have business at this hour? What could it be? Where are they going? Why are you so nosey?

Don't you hear that other sound, that low, almost unidentifiable sound? Is that the sound of some elusive machinery, maybe the refrigerator reverberating through the walls? Is that simply the sound electricity makes in the dead of night when it's given free reign to do so? Is that just the sound of teh house settling, boards contracting from the heat of the day that's past? Or, is the machinery quiet, the electricity inaudible, the house settled or made of silent bricks and mortar? If so, what's that sound? Why does it sound suspiciously like a growl, a moan, a scratching at the window?

Speaking of the window, are you sure yours is closed? Are you sure the door is locked? Are you sure that matters? How many times, while the doors were unlocked, were you off in some room away from the doors, or simply distracted? Don't tell me you sit and watch the doors every minute of the day. You had to eat, you had to sleep. You most likely even made a trip or two or three to the bathroom. Could someone have come in while you were on the toilet? Could someone have hid in your closet while you were washing your hands? Is there a backdoor? An attic? A cellar? Are all the windows securely latched shut? Are you sure?

What's that sound then? Is the baby awake? Is your sister home and wandering about the darkened recesses of the house? Is your husband home, smelling of alcohol and cheap waitresses and cheaper friends? Or is it just you?

Listen closely. Is that a scratching at the window? Is there someone right outside your bedroom door? Or is that sound coming from the closet or from under your bed? Did you remember to look under your bed? Did you check the closet? Or are you over those fears of boogeymen and strange creatures of the night? You think you're too old to believe in such things, right. There's no ghosts. There's no monsters under beds. There's no madman outside your window...

But why did it just get colder? What's that feeling, that prickling running down your spine? Why does that pit in your stomach seem so infinitely deep? Why are you shaking? What's that sound? And why does the air feel so still and taste so stale? What's that thing right behind you?

Turn around and find out. And don't blame me for whatever you find.

"that feeling"